Monthly Archive for February 2009
On Sunday night, Kevin and I were in the kitchen making chili (an Oscar-worthy meal, if ever there was one, especially when paired with guacamole). I was up to my elbows in chopped peppers and onions and garlic and Kevin was busy gathering up all the necessary spices. After rooting through the pantry for cumin and chili powder, he asked where the bay leaves were.
Mid-chop, without thinking, I said: “they’re in the cheese drawer.” (Why the fresh bay leaves were in the cheese drawer of the refrigerator is another question, for another time. Until then, don’t judge. There’s a lot going on in that fridge of ours.) As Kevin extracted the bay from underneath a mountain of feta and gruyere and Parmesan, it hit me that I love the fact that we have a cheese drawer.
When you’re at your wit’s end with winter—ready to send your scarf through the paper shredder at work; shuddering at the term “root vegetable”; shaking the very last penny out of your piggy bank in order to book a one-way ticket to Maui—do this: take a deep breath, slowly back away from the Orbitz “buy now” button, say no to the shredder and make yourself a Key lime pie.
With one bite—one silken, puckery, refreshing bite—you’ll be transported, if only mentally, to the kind of place where palm fronds swish in the breeze, where socks are a distant memory, and where you will recall that you actually love root vegetables and can’t wait to eat them again next winter. A slice of Key lime pie, you see, is a little bit like blinding sunshine—nestled right in a nubbly graham cracker crust. And, in these last gasps of winter, that is nothing to sneeze at.
It snowed a few inches on Saturday morning—a real wallop. While Kevin hated it, seeing it as a sign that winter was digging its heels in, I quite liked it. The snow itself was pretty—big, snowglobe flakes that floated lazily to the already blanketed earth. And, besides that, it provided a perfect excuse to spend the day inside, hunkered down.
So hunker we did. Kevin watched a Chicago Bulls championship series game from the late nineties on TV (I am so not kidding) and I puttered around the kitchen. It was quiet and relaxing and a just perfect Saturday. One of the best things to emerge from the day (aside from, surprise!, a Bulls win), was a steaming, simmering pot of soup.
Are we out of the woods on peanut phobia yet? I sure hope so, because I have been holding onto this recipe for way too long. I’ve been trigger shy about posting this recipe for chocolate cupcakes for a few weeks now because it involves peanut butter, which is all well and good if you’re, say, my husband. But I know a good chunk of people out there have been steering clear of America’s favorite slatherable substance, given the recent recall.
I hope we can get back to our normal peanut buttered ways soon, but if you’re not ready, I understand. That said, I still urge you to stick around for the truly unmissable part of this recipe, which is the chocolate cupcakes themselves. It’s a devil’s food cake-type recipe, so dark they’re almost black and so moist and rich that they’ll leave even the lactose intolerant clamoring for a swig of milk. But that’s not all. They’re also studded with chunks of dark chocolate and liberally infused with cinnamon. They are, in short, a cupcake that is perfect in every way.
I tend to play favorites—harboring sweet spots for certain things over others. Thankfully, I don’t have children, a litter of puppies or multiple spouses (I’m looking at you, Bill Henrickson) to inflict this habit upon. Instead, I focus my favoritism on inanimate objects: a particularly sturdy treadmill at the gym; a wooden utensil that’s part spatula/part classic cookie dough spoon; a new chunky ring that I’d like to wear at the exclusion of all other jewelry. Feelings don’t get hurt this way, you see.
More than these things, though, I play favorites with food. Pet ingredients seem to constantly come and go. Toward the end of summer it was smoked paprika, but at the moment I’m into briny, chunky crystals of kosher salt. And where gruyere was once popping up in many creations, I’ve been increasingly turning to manchego. The favoritism runs toward baking as well: dried cherries are the only dried fruit that will do these days. And the abundant stash of walnuts in the pantry has lately given way to pecans.
Meyer lemons seem to be everywhere these days. Splashed across food blogs, heaped into bins at the market, even tucked unexpectedly into a ridiculously delicious squid salad that I ate on Friday night (at a restaurant that was, in a word, perfect). And a trio of the small, sunny lovelies were tucked into a bowl full of citrus on our kitchen counter, throwing off their gentle perfume, for almost a week before I figured out just how I would use them.
I considered letting them stand in for standard lemons in a bundt cake or a tart or lbars, but in the end I settled on a breakfast option: muffins. I hadn’t made muffins in a while and I’ll tell you why: Kevin’s been sneaking one into his order at the shop across the street, when he goes to pick up coffee on Sunday mornings. And these little treats he smuggles home are so good I just hadn’t bothered trying my own for a couple months.
Making this soup felt a little like cheating. Not A-Rod-style cheating or anything: just too easy. To make it, I chopped up a few vegetables (sad looking ones, at that: a misshapen onion, a droopy stalk of celery, a lone carrot tucked in the back of the crisper drawer), cranked open a few cans, tore into a bag of frozen corn kernels and, presto!, a soup was born.
And a good soup, too: one that’s shot through with a warm, smoky heat and brightened up with a squeeze of lime juice. Not just that, but it’s pretty! Sunny corn niblets, bright orange chunks of carrot, and whisps of minced cilantro all bob in the rosy broth, alongside purple-black beans.
I hope I don’t sound too scroogey or anti-cupid here, but I’m not all that big on Valentine’s Day. Roses aren’t really my thing and I like to know exactly what type of filling will ooze out of a piece of chocolate if I bite into it. It’s also a day when restaurants are often at the most expensive (and not at their best quality) and emotions (trumped up by Hallmark et al) can be at their shakiest. Really, why do we go through this rigamarole year in and year out?
Rant aside, I do think Valentine’s Day is a perfect chance to cook a lavish meal, complete with a bottle of fizzing champagne. But that doesn’t make Valentine’s Day all that unique in my book. I find plenty of excuses to cook lavish meals (and, ahem, drink champagne): good news at work, birthdays, anniversaries, completed bar exams. You name it. And Valentine’s Day, I suppose, is just as good a reason as any of these others.
Welcome to the new and improved The Kitchen Sink. It’s a whole new look and a new address too (which means you’ll need to update your subscriptions; you can do so by clicking that orange button in the sidebar). I feel a bit like a renter who’s just bought her first home. While previous layouts felt temporary, this new site really feels like it’s mine. There will be a bit more responsibility (like a mortgage, I suppose) but also a lot more freedom (renovations!). We’ve been tweaking for a while, so I’ve had some time to settle in. I hope you’ll soon feel right at home here too.
What’s that? You’d like a tour? Of course! The same old Recipe Index is right here. Stay tuned for a Menu Index soon too. And then there’s the About page, which has the same photo, which, come to think of it, could maybe use an update. You can contact me by email, as usual, but you now contact me on this page too. See, not so different is it?
Around this time of year—the dregs of the winter—Kevin and I are prone to hermitism. It’s a serious condition that affects those of us in the northern reaches of this country, confining us to our homes, leaving us yearning for turtleneck sweaters and hearty food. Sure, we leave the house for work, but happy hour? No thank you! Dinner down the block? Are you nuts? A walk around the neighborhood? Take a hike!
So, I was downright shocked to find us triple booked for the Super Bowl last Sunday. Triple! Booked! Frankly, I didn’t even think we had that many friends (or maybe I just didn’t remember them, given that we are weeks into the whole hermitism thing at this point and, I dare say, some of said friends have perhaps fallen prey to the syndrome too). In the end, we could only make it to two of the parties, which was about as much social interaction as us hermitism-afflicted souls could take. Hermitism side effects aside, two parties meant one thing: two treats.